"ALAMO, Texas — While the economy in Texas has boomed over the last 20 years, along the border with Mexico about a half million people live in clusters of cinderblock dwellings, home-built shacks, dilapidated trailers and small houses.
Texas has more than 2,300 of these communities known as colonias, the Spanish word for "colony." For decades, the villages have sprung up around cities as a home for poor Hispanic immigrant families. Some are shantytowns with neither drinkable water nor waste disposal, and since the 1990s, the state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to improve the worst and stop new ones from forming.
But that commitment is now being questioned. In the last few months, Texas lawmakers cut university budgets that help give immunizations and health checkups to children and others in the colonias. They did not renew a key program that provides running water and sewer service. And this summer, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott abruptly shuttered the office that since 1999 has coordinated the work of various agencies in the communities."